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Why Did Jessica Lange Leave American Horror Story?

Why Jessica Lange Stepped Away From American Horror Story Years Ago

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: MURDER HOUSE, Jessica Lange, 'Smoldering Children', (Season 1, ep. 110, aired Dec. 7, 2011), 2011-. photo: Lewis Jacobs /  FX Network / Courtesy: Everett Collection

If you were already on pins and needles waiting for American Horror Story: Apocalypse, you're probably even more excited since star Sarah Paulson announced to the Television Critics Association that Jessica Lange would be returning for this upcoming season in a guest-starring capacity. Lange hasn't been seen on the series since 2015, when she exited the horror anthology at the end of its fourth season.

When news broke in 2013 that Lange was leaving after American Horror Story: Freak Show, everyone questioned why the actress would leave. It was a fair question: the franchise continually brought in great ratings and buzz, and Lange's roles on the series earned her not one but two Emmys. Plus, the anthology format meant that there was always a new role to play. Why would an actress step away?

In interviews given around her departure, Lange gave a very simple, relatable reason: TV schedules are a huge commitment, and it just got to be too much. She explained, "It ends up being a lot of time during the year being committed to something. This is a 6-month commitment every year. That will be four years in a row. I want to have more time to myself I guess . . . I think four years doing something is a sufficient amount of time."


Although she stepped away from the day-to-day grind of television, Lange certainly wasn't on a creative break. She headlined Long Day's Journey Into Night on Broadway, for which she won a Tony Award in 2016. Lange returned to the small screen in the miniseries Feud, starring as Joan Crawford opposite Susan Sarandon's Bette Davis in a fictionalization of the legendary divas' rivalry.

For his part, series creator Ryan Murphy had always left the door wide open for Lange to return. Murphy produced the Broadway production of Long Day's Journey Into Night in which Lange starred, and the duo also collaborated on Feud. Murphy has always been optimistic about Lange's possible return to AHS, saying in 2015, "I think if I went to Jessica and I had an amazing role, I think she would do it . . . Jessica is somebody that is always about the role, in every season on this show."

We'll get to see what juicy role brought Lange back to American Horror Story when its eighth season debuts in September!

Image Source: Everett Collection
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